- - Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Never content to simply repeat history, guitarist Andy Summers has always strived to push the envelope and shatter expectations, breaking sonic ground and exploring interesting styles and tones with each new album. Each new disc he puts out is unique, with several miles away from his years of commercial success with his former band, The Police. And that’s a good thing.

His latest release is no exception. Mr. Summers discussed what it’s like to be a one-man band, if he has an aversion to vocals and what the heck the title of his latest CD, “Triboluminescence,” actually means.

Question: What does the title of your new album mean?

Answer: It’s actually a scientific world meaning striking something and creating light from dark. I thought it was a great word and that is was a very apt metaphor for making music — or any creative act, really. We all start in
the dark and have to create light.

Q: On the surface, it seems like a dark album.

A: I’m interested to hear you say that. I don’t know about that. It’s got a poignancy to it. I guess you could shade it that way. That’s a fair summation.

It’s more toward to the dark side in a sense. But that makes it sound sort of
miserable, and it’s not at all. It’s more like spiritual. Searching.

Q: The opening track is very big and cinematic.

A: The opening track, “If Anything,” is a sort of majestic, soulful, searching-type track. I debated the sequencing of this album, but decided to go with a sort of overture of an opening. I think it was kind of a ballsy move, but I decided that’s what I like to do.

Q: You never seem to do the same thing twice. Are you always pushing the envelope?

A: I’m trying to. I guess that’s what interests me. I don’t really want to keep
retreading the same old ground.

It’s exciting to see if you can create something that sounds, at least to your own ears, exciting. I have various ways of going about doing that. I worked some new ground with my last album, “Metal Dog.” I felt encouraged to take that model and wanted to see if I could expand on it.

Q: “Metal Dog” was a true solo outing where you played everything yourself. Are you the sole player this time out as well?

A: Yeah. Basically a solo. I did play everything. But I did put a track on the end, partly to announce sort of a partnership with a cellist called Artyom Manukyan. He’s a great improvising cellist from Armenia.

It;s the last track on the CD, called “Garden of the Sea.” I had 15 tracks in the can already but put that on because I felt like it belonged there.

Other than that, I play everything.

Q: If you’re making a record by yourself, who is your quality control? How do you know if something is good ?

A: First off, I have to be the No. 1 audience and knock myself out. I figure I’ve done this for a very long time. I feel I have the right responses.

There is always the working out of things, and you have to have sort of a gut response to it. And an intellectual response. And an aesthetic response. All that comes from having done this for a long time.

Instead of saying, “That’s a really good rock track, and that will do,” [I’m] looking for something that is more original and fresh.  There are a lot of elements to get into it: a level or sophistication, passion and excitement.

I’m the No. 1 audience but also have an engineer I have known for many years. I feel like sometimes I’m playing to him because we’ve worked together for so long. He’s willing to say, “Oh, that’s not really there yet.” We just went through that on a track that is going to be on the vinyl edition of the album.

Q: What do you think about the resurgence of vinyl?

A: Coming from the era of vinyl, it’s kind of amazing [and] very pleasing in a way. You could argue that everything went wrong [in the music business] the
moment we went digital. The day the first CD came out, it all went downhill in the music industry. Digital destroyed everything.

Of course the sound quality you get out of vinyl — the analog sound is wonderful. The company I’m with insists on making vinyl. Brilliant. This one is coming out on double vinyl with nine extra tracks.

Q: Do you listen to a lot of new music?

A: I do. I listen to a lot of things. I do yoga every morning and often play new stuff then. I still buy CDs and LPs and listen to them.

There are a couple players around that interest me. Bands like Grizzly Bear I think are very interesting. There is also a guitarist called Mary Halvorson who I really like. Apart from playing the old stuff like Miles Davis, I do keep a
contemporary awareness. Especially making the new record, I’m aware of modern sensibilities and trying to make things sound like 2017 and not 1968. I think it’s important.

But a record like this is not really a commercial record aiming for the mainstream.

Q: But making a commercial record has never really been the goal, has
it?

A: No. It’s never interested me. It’s amazing I was in a band like The Police
that had such phenomenal commercial success. Part of what made The Police what it was was that we didn’t all come in with obvious mainstream musical tastes. We were a rock band and somehow we had to make rock music, but it was informed by a lot of things outside of the mainstream for sure.

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